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our Saviour spreads, is illustrated by this mention of its origin. He wes tempted “in all points,” like as we are : therefore " in all points” we may surely reckon upon finding in him this fellowfeeling. It was not a few kinds only of our earthly struggles, apart from others, that he admitted into his heart, so that he could appreciate them by feeling as well as judgment, and not the rest : but he stood successively in all the main flood-gates of tribulation, and there made trial of the worst that mortal man can endure, whether from the hostility of a disordered world, or from the rage of fallen angels, or from the wrath of offended heaven. Yet it was with a certain modification that he was so tempted :-it was “ without sin.” This is the only difference which the inspired writer marks—the only reservation which he is careful to make. But then it is a reservation of so much consequence, that, in the eye of our guilty apprehension, it seems at first sight to take back nearly all that had been previously granted ; and to make so essential a dissimilarity betwixt the temptations of the high priest and those of his people, that the matter of chief importance in the case-the sympathy on bis part—is almost wholly deprived of its foundation. To beings who see that very many of their temptations are the effects of previous sin, failing whicb, they had never existed; and against whom temptation is so often prevalent, that the very name do longer presents so readily the idea of simple trial, as of trial inducing crime, this is a very natural prejudice; yet to beings entirely dependent, and that through faith, upon the tender mercies of Christ Jesus, it is a prejudice so fatal, that a little time can scarcely be better employed than in endeavouring to see upon what weak foundations it rests, or rather bow utterly it is unfounded. May the Spirit of wisdom and grace vouchsafe, in this exercise not only to disentangle our minds from all misunderstandings, but so to commend bis truth to our assured convictions, as to fill our hearts with sacred encouragement and comfort !
In illustrating the text by the current usage and clear authority of other Scriptures, if we can make it appear,
That temptation and sin, however closely related, are yet things entirely and essentially distinct, so that there may be real and true temptation, where there is no sin whatever :- this in the first place.
And if we can farther show, That those temptations which are the most sifting, severe, and terrible in their nature, may be precisely those which are the farthest removed from being sinful :this in the second place.
Then, thirdly, we shall the more readily see, how the temptalions of Christ, notwithstanding their sinlessness, were such as to give bim a most thorough experience and feeling of human infirmity in the hour of trial :
And lastly, how this feeling on the part of Christ amounts to a true and perfect sympathy with the infirmities of all who receive Him as their High Priest, under every form and aspect of their temptations.
I. Let us advert then, in the first place, to the truth, That both in the nature of things themselves, and in the language of the in.
spired writers, temptation and sin are entirely distinct and separate matters. We do not say that temptation and sin are not intimately connected iwwe only say that they are not identified. Our assertion is not that they have nothing to do with each other ; but just that they are not one and the same thing. That temptation is often mingled with sin, as wine is often mingled with water, must be admitted : but as wine and water are very different substances, and, though capable of mixture, yet can and do exist in a separate state, so it is also with sin and temptation. To say that there is ever sin without temptation leading to it, might indeed be false; and if true, would have no connection whatever with our subject : but there may be temptation that neither partakes of sin, nor produces it :--and that is precisely the assertion of the text concerning the temptation of our Lord. If we attentively look at the plainest facts, this truth must speedily be apparent. How many are successfully tempted by hunger, or the dread of it, to seek subsistence by uprighteous practices?' Yet surely to be hungry and to dread the pangs of hunger, are but mere infirmities, not sins. How many crimes are committed under the influence of anger! Yet there is such a thing as blameless anger, if the dictates of God's Spirit are of any authority; for were anger always criminal, the apostolic precept,“ Be angry, and sin not,” would just be an injunction upon us to sin without sioning. The truth is, that all the stronger appetites and affections which God has implanted in our nature, and which would have been necessary to its being and well being, though we had never fallen--affections most fit, most becoming, most beneficial, most indispensable--are every one of them converted into most dangerous temptations, when they happen at any time to be powerfully excited, under circumstances that preclude them from being lawfully indulged. There may, no doubt, be excitement without just cause-or excitement that goes beyond due bounds and then certainly it is sinful excitement;and if it lead to criminal conduct, here, without question, is a sinful temptation producing sinful deeds. But on the other hand, the excitement may be quite unavoidable as to its occasion-and quite reasonable as to its degree; wbilst it may, notwithstanding, continue to he a temptation of the most powerful kind. If, for instance, a man is long shut out from every kind of nourishment, he cannot but hunger and thirst. If the privation is continued, no feeling can be more reasonable than the fear of death, as none can be more violent. In these circumstances, should he suddenly find an opportunity of supplying his urgent want, but only through some act of decided wickedness, who can fail to see that he would be fiercely tempted to seek the relief by committing the sin ? Should he in fact commit it, he is guilty; but his guilt lies not in the temptation itself surely, but in the success of the templation. It lies not in having felt the raging appetite, but in having yielded to it;- not in having feared the death of the body, but in having forgotten the fear of Him, who after the body is dead, can cast the soul into hell. That no part of the sin belonged to tbe mere temptation, will, however, be still more evident, if, instead of
yielding to it, the sufferer has successfully resisted and died, rather than make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. In this case, let the bodily anguish have been as great, the horror of death as violent, the impulses that strove to conquer his better will as frequent and as furious as before; yet, seeing his hatred of sin, and trust in God, and hope of eternal life were stronger still, and were prevalent at last against all inducements to evil ;-it is clear that the temptation, instead of being a sinful thing, was just one of those "fiery trials" of a Christian's faith, which the Scripture pronounces to be "more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried in the fire."
The second assertion, namely, that those temptations which are the most sifting and terrible may, notwithstanding, be the farthest removed from sin, will admit of confirmation in few words. No. thing indeed can be more true, than that our evil dispositions and passions, when fostered and provoked by indulgence, occasion to those who are not utterly abandoned, many a painful trial and many a bitter conflict, which might otherwise be avoided. And yet in a world where sin has introduced confusion, and demands that God, in his sovereign mercy and righteousness, should often visit his own children with sharp correction, it frequently becomes needful to restrain the holiest affections ; and to mortify desires the most natural and most necessary, with as much rigour as the most impure and profligate. * The temptations of our Lord, without being sinful in the least degree, might, notwithstanding, be, what we know they were, more sharp and terrible than any other. What though he had no irregular or exaggerated passions to restrain! He had holy, just, pure, heavenly affections, strong in proportion to the greatness of bis soul, and warm in proportion to the brightness and dignity of their objects ; which he was called upon, by the nature of his undertaking, not only to control, but for a season to thwart so painfully, and to turn aside so violently, from their natural courses, that he must have needed to exercise a persevering strength of self-denial altogether matchless ; and must have bad in his heart experience far beyond what mere mortality could have endured, of the profoundest sorrow, the keenest anguish, and the harshest mortification. What feelings but such as these, could he bave experienced in those hours of tomptation, when, with a spirit feelingly alive to all the refinements of celestial purity and love itself, he had to hear the loathsome suggestions, and encounter the detestable impulses, of diabolical wickedness and pollution ?- or still more, when with a beart that was completely absorbed in the love of God, and that found its highest delight in the sense of his fellowship and favour, it behoved him, by his own consent, not only to feel bimself forsaken of God, alone and desolate; but also to endure in his spirit, the whole expression and effect of God's infinite wrath, when roused to execute the utmost vengeance of sovereign justice, upon the sins for wbicb, though he did not commit them, it was his lot to suffer. No trial, it is evident, could either be more holy or more terrible than this. Nay, in the very perfection of its holiness its terror was consummated.
But now we come to the third inquiry whether the temptation of Christ, being without sin, could give him a thorough experience and feeling of human infirmity in the hour of trial. To judge of this, we must attend to the manner in which that sense of weakness is produced in ourselves, to which our Lord's sympathy has reference. Some moral conflict is necessary for the production of it: for whatever may be our real infirmity, it is only in some struggles that we have the “ feeling of infirmity.” Then only are we thoroughly conscious of weakness, when putting forth our whole strength we feel it insufficient, or but little more than sufficient, to meet the exigency—and are consequently open to the impressions of danger and the assaults of fear. Such alarming sensations may alike be excited, whether we fail or whether we are victorious in the conflict. * And why then may not our High Priest, though unconquered, have acquired the like sensibility in his temptation ? He had no sin, it is true; but did he not feel weakness ? Did he not see danger? Was not his heart afraid ? When tempted, bad he not experience of a conflict which brought his strength and holiness to as upsparing a trial as any that befalls his people can bring theirs ? * Our understanding and belief of this most important truth receives some disturbance from certain ill-defined notions of the share which our Lord's Godhead must have taken, in supernaturally sustaining his human powers while under temptation. “The Word was God," we say with the evan. gelist; "how then,” we add, “ could he ever be in straits ?” The question would be quite in point, did it belong to the perfection of his fitness for the mediatorial office, or did it even consist with that fitness, that his humanity should be placed, as without doubt it could easily have been, beyond all reach of sharp and distressing temptation. But the case was far otherwise. For in that he was tempted, says the apostle, he is able to succour them that are tempted :-words which distinctly teach that in consequence of encountering painful conflict, such as calls for succour, he has acquired for the relief of others in similar circumstances, a qualification and a meetness which he could not otherwise have possessed; but without wbich it is obvious that he could not be, wbat he now is, a perfect mediator. * This view of the case implies no disparagement to the greatness of our Lord's endowments considered as a man. On the contrary, the belief that his conflict was extreme, is held by none more consistently than by those who hold, at the same time, upon the fullest evidence, that, even as a man, he was in every excellence, moral and intellectual, exalted unmeasurably, not only above all that are born of women, but even above all that is revealed of angelic sanctity or grandeur. The unrivalled greatness of bis soul, was no reason wby he should pass through his trial without difficulty ; because the hostility and the hardship with which he had to contend was high and formidable in proportion. It was little that he was to meet the rage of confederated men, in all the plenitude of carnal power :-it was even little that he stood alone against the concentrated might of the kingdom of darkness, when it was stimulated by circumstances to the utmost
violence of desperate animosily, and came armed with the whole subtilty and vehemence of its spiritual temptations. He had to stand before the face of incensed Omnipotence and to encounter the strokes of that flaming sword of Jehovah, which was to fall in vengeance upon the sins of an apostate world. And who then sball undertake to tell, what a marvellous enlargement of forethought and knowledge in a human soul-what an inextricable grasp of assured faith upon the promises of God, what an iron strength of holy resolution-and what inextinguishable ardours of divine and saving love-must have been found in him, wbo could not only before-band resolve to meet such terrors, but could actually sustain them, and not only sustain but conquer them, when they came at once, with united force and fierceness, to wrestle with his spirit in the agonies of the cross !
That Christ then, in his fearful though sipless conflict, thus gained a thorough “ feeling of infirmity,” is certain :—that this feeling lays an ample foundation for a true and perfect sympathy with his people in all their trials, remains to be briefly manifested. The text obviously intends to teach nothing more than that the sympathy of Christ is secure to those who believe in him-who acknowledge him as their High Priest—and who hold the same attitude in which he was found on earth, striving against sin. But this does not prejudice the truth taught in many other passages of Scripture, that he regards with compassion even the very chief of sinners. That he could derive from the experience of suffering on account of sin, a vivid sense of the miseries which men bring down upon themselves is self-evident; and that he has no disposition to withhold from any who will accept of it, the benefit of this fellowfeeling, appears from his lamentation over the perishing rebels of Jerusalem. In one point, however, it is quite true, that his participation of such men's sentiments does entirely fail. He can bave no fellowship with their love of sin. Their impure, unrighteous, ungodly thoughts and feelings are utter strangers to bis beart. There can be no concord of Christ with Belial. But is this any disadvantage to those unhappy persons in seeking salvation from him? Quite the contrary. If he could possibly have a fellowfeeling with their sins, yet to what end would they wish for the existence of such a feeling ? Is it that he might the more indulge them in their wickedness? That, instead of promoting their salvation, would be deepening their destruction. Is it that he might the better mortify and expel their sins ? But how could such an object be promoted by his concurring in their sins, and entering into the spirit of them ? Surely his invincible abhorrence of every, the least iniquity, and his infinite love of holiness and unspotted righteousness, are the very best pledges that sinners can desire of his most earnest readiness to aid them in renouncing all their transgressions. Thus even where his fellow feeling comes short, and in reference to his very enemies, it is most for their real interest that it should do so. But if any such desire to be, in every point, and to the utmost extent, in harmony with the Son of God, their course is plain-let them repent and believe the Gospel.